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"Troubling" birth of designer baby

Catholic moralists have raised concerns about designer babies, following the birth of the first child from frozen ovarian tissue in a process that involves the discarding of embryos without the desired qualities.

The process is promoted as a source of hope to women made infertile by cancer treatment. It also promises the potential to delay childbearing for healthy women.

Baby Tamara was born on Thursday in Belgium. Doctors had stored slices of an ovary of her mother, Ouarda Touirat, seven years previously when she was having chemotherapy for Hodgkin's disease, a form of cancer.

The team, led by Jacques Donnez of the Catholic University of Louvain, is sure that the grafted tissue produced the egg that became 32-year-old Ms Touirat's daughter and that it was impossible that her ovaries could have spontaneously resumed functioning.

Meanwhile a documentary on SBS TV at 8:30 pm on Thursday will chronicle the emotional journey of an Australian couple who created medical history and sparked a storm of controversy over their decision to have a "designer" baby to save the life of their seriously ill son have spoken out about their choice.

Bernadette Tobin, an ethicist from the Australian Catholic University who directs St Vincent's Hospital's Plunkett Centre for Ethics, raises concerns in the documentary about the expense of PGD, which costs more than $15,000.

Only families with financial resources would be able to design their descendants, she argued, raising the spectre of genetic haves and have-nots.

When news of the pregnancy became public earlier this year, Bishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney described the development as troubling.

"We would question whether children should be created to provide something for someone else - that the children are a means to an end," Bishop Fisher said.

Couple devoted to baby made to save firstborn (Sun-Herald 26/9/04)
Frozen tissue child a birth breakthrough (Sydney Morning Herald 25/9/04)

Who's Afraid of Designer Babies? (SBS)

27 Sep 2004